Winning article for the week ending 6 March
The remake of Noel Coward’s ‘Blythe Spirit’ (1941) is a whirlwind of comedy and magic. Leaving viewers on the edge of their seat from beginning to end, tension builds and builds to the nevertheless surprising climax at the end.
On Monday 17th February, I was lucky enough to see a talent-filled cast, including Jennifer Saunders, perform in the revived, Richard Eyre directed, chaos-filled production.
The cast will continue to perform the play nationwide and a six-week run in the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West end will mark the end of the tour (for now).
From flying books to trances to ghostly possession, Blithe Spirit enraptured and entertained the entire audience. The tale of a psychic, Madame Arcati (Jennifer Saunders), an author Charles (Geoffrey Streatfield) and his two wives (Lisa Dillon as Ruth and Emma Naomi as Elvira) is filled with Coward’s typical fast quips and dry wit. The haunting begins after a hilarious séance, set up to give Charles an opportunity to research a new screenplay. Further laughs explode when we find out that his now-deceased wife, Elvira, has returned to both seduce and ruin him, much to his current wife, Ruth’s, dismay.
The effect of having one of the actors on stage only seen by some other characters and invisible to the rest, was carried out with complete precision. Jennifer Saunders delighted as Madame Arcati with her frivolous and expressive personality, hilarious comments and physical comedy. However, the unexpected star of the show for me was Rose Wardlaw playing the young servant girl Edith with aplomb and impeccable timing. The twist at the end provided a suitably impressive finale to an already unforgettable performance.
During the interval, I had time to gather some opinions from fellow audience members. Lucy said how she found it “incredibly funny” and Nick Jones called the play “entertaining” stated that it “really set the scene nicely for act 2”. Another audience member remarked that she had “seen things like it before” from “different versions” of the play. Nevertheless, all could agree that “Madame Arcati was very funny”.
One moment that stuck with me was the repeated use of Frank Sinatra’s ballad “Always”. This eerie number was played throughout the most haunting and tension-filled scenes, and did not leave my head for the whole night. Special effects that could have been lifted straight out of a Harry Potter movie rounded off a superb performance.
Overall, definitely recommended, an absolute classic brought up to date and not to be missed by any theatre lovers.
Article written by Samantha Hardaker. Click here to read it on our online newspapers.